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Chanelle Ellaya

Chanelle Ellaya
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Chanelle Ellaya is the editor of Screen Africa. She completed her BA Journalism degree at the University of Johannesburg in 2011. While writing is her passion, she has a keen interest in the media in various capacities. Chanelle is an avid social media networker and a firm believer in the power of social and online networking. Between writing and tweeting, she finds time to feed her love for live music.

SASC Visible Spectrum Awards – winner announced

The South African Society of Cinematography (SASC) celebrated the industry’s top achievers at the 2019 edition of its annual Visible Spectrum Awards (VSA) – held on 14 September at Stark Studios in Johannesburg.

The South African Society of Cinematographers was established primarily to advance the art and science of cinematography, as well as to encourage, foster excellence, artistic perfection and scientific knowledge in all matters pertaining to cinematography. The SASC launched its prestigious Visible Spectrum Awards to celebrate the outstanding work produced by the best of the best of South African cinematographers. The 2019 event showcased and celebrated the craft, innovation and style of the country’s top cinematographers, both established and emerging.

Award sponsors this year included Sony Professional Solutions, Puma Video, Panavision, Southern Lighting Solutions, Visual Impact and more.

The winners of the 2019 Visible Spectrum Awards are:

BEST STUDENT – sponsored by DU Films

Louise Kathleen van der Merwe awarded a Gold Certificate for Simply Ben

SOUTH AFRICAN SOCIETY OF OPERATORS AWARD – sponsored by Stark Films

Adi Visser awarded Gold for Strike Back

ALTERNATIVE – sponsored by Postmasters

Rick Joaquim SASC awarded Gold for Makeup is Art

Charl Fraser SASC awarded Gold for Unrivalled Launch

Tiyane Nyembe SASC awarded Gold for Ford Thabang

MUSIC VIDEO –sponsored by Southern Lighting Solutions

Justus de Jager SASC awarded a VSA for Blick Bassy – “NGWA” music video

Motheo Moeng SASC awarded Gold for Blick Bassy – “Woñi” music video

Deon van Zyl awarded Gold for Petite Noir – “La Maison Noir” music video

DOCUMENTARY/ SHORT FORM – sponsored by The Camera Platform

Warren Smart awarded a VSA for Mafia Fisheries

Warren Smart awarded Silver for Coming Home

Warren Smart awarded Silver for Prelude to Perfection

WILDLIFE – sponsored by Puma Video

Boris von Shoenebeck awarded a VSA for Madagascar – Africa’s Galapagos

TV DRAMA/ SHORT FILM – sponsored by Visual Impact

Jamie D Ramsay SASC awarded a VSA for Beast

Giulio Biccari SASC awarded Gold for Origin

Rick Joaquim SASC awarded Silver for Haatklop

COMMERCIAL (CORPORATE) – sponsored by Panalux

Willie Nel SASC awarded a VSA for Outsurance – Linda

Eugenio Galli SASC awarded Gold for Visa – Africa Soccer

Eugenio Galli SASC awarded Gold for Tata Steel – We also make Tomorrow

COMMERCIAL (PRODUCT) – sponsored by Panalux

Eugenio Galli SASC awarded a VSA for Chicken Licken – Bootless Bandit

Jamie D Ramsay SASC awarded Gold for Chicken Licken – Robot

Willie Nel SASC awarded Gold for Continental – Spiderman

FEATURE FILM – sponsored by Panavision

Tom Marais SASC awarded a VSA for Hunter Killer

Jonathan Kovel SASC awarded Gold for Sew the Winter to my Skin

Justus de Jager SASC awarded Gold for The Lullaby

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHER – sponsored by Sony Professional Solutions MEA

Tom Marais SASC awarded a VSA

STEWART FARNELL AWARD – sponsored by ARRI Camera Systems

Fanie van der Merwe SASC awarded the Farnell Trophy

In conversation with award-winning director Nare Mokgoto

Screen Africa spoke to visual artist and director Nare Mokgotho…

Tell us a bit about your background and how it has shaped you as a director?

I studied fine art and, after art school, started working in advertising as a copywriter. After a few years at places like J. Walter Thompson, Grey and Saatchi & Saatchi, I traded agency life for a position as a creative researcher at Velocity Films under Peter Carr, who remains my executive producer at MassÏf. In research I learned from some of the best directors in the country, but also discovered what kind of work resonated with me.

Tell us about your journey from copywriter to director? Was directing always the goal?

Directing wasn’t necessarily a goal, but it was certainly a dream. I think being on commercial sets while I was a copywriter made it more real, and I became convinced that directing was something I wanted to pursue. As I mentioned, I spent a number of years as a researcher, which were invaluable for my trajectory.

What kind of content do you enjoy creating and why?

I really enjoy conceptually-driven work, particularly stories that lend themselves to subtlety and require some level of nuance. I always remember the substance of films, commercials, literature and artworks more than I might the formal properties. Techniques can change so quickly, but I think ideas and stories are far more constant and are always on trend.

What are some of your personal favourite projects that you have worked on?

I don’t know if I can narrow them down. They’ve all been beneficial in some way, particularly the most challenging ones.

You took home two awards – for Showmax’s “Zero Bucks Given” and Rapid Lion’s “Wreaths” – at the recent YDA, congratulations! What does the win mean for you as a director?

Historically, the YDA has been good at foregrounding the careers of young directors. The YDA has often helped set up young directors for a career in the industry by affording them greater visibility. For me, the wins mean that people in the industry have a greater sense of the kinds of things I gravitate towards, like performance-driven storytelling injected with subtle inflections of humour.

What, in your opinion, makes an award-winning and successful brand film?

There’s little substitute for a good, simple idea well communicated, or a great story well told. These stay with audiences more than anything else.

Apart from directing, you are a visual artist. Can you tell us more about your work as a visual artist?

I’ve been working as part of a collaborative artist duo for the past 10 years. Broadly speaking, our practice uses everyday black urban experience as a primary departure point. This is a way for us to think through popular education spaces, collaborative infrastructures, oral histories, knowledge dissemination systems and the kinds of things that might be considered worthy of intellectual consideration.

What are you currently working on?

A few projects that have me excited. I’m presently pitching on a major car brand commercial and on another great comedy spot for a top retail brand.

Any plans for a feature film in the future?

Yes, but not in the immediate future. You could say I’m currently laying the foundations and flirting with some ideas.

If you weren’t a filmmaker, you would be?

A visual artist. I’m fortunate because I get to do both alongside one another.  

Inside the making of Kings of Mulberry Street

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

Set in the early-80s, the heart-warming feature film Kings of Mulberry Street follows the adventures of Ticky and Baboo, two nine-year-old misfits who take on the town bully.

Written and directed by Judy Naidoo, the film is set in the fictionalised Sugarhill District – inspired by the KwaZulu-Natal towns of Verulam and Tongaat. Naidoo, who grew up in Verulam, holds the film particularly close to her heart: “Whilst pursuing a short filmmaking course in New York City, a lecturer who saw some potential in my work encouraged me to tell my own stories,” she shares.

“He encouraged me to tell stories that were personal to me. At that stage I had no ideas brewing in my mind, but on the long flight back from the US the story for Kings of Mulberry Street emerged. I dreamt up the characters of Ticky and Baboo – they were largely inspired by the weird and whacky kids I once knew growing up. And being a strange kid myself, I could see myself in both those characters. The rich and colourful world of the Indian community in the 80s, as well as Indian cinema and songs from that era, all provided the inspiration for this story.”

Kings of Mulberry Street tells the story of two unlikely friends, the young Indian boys Ticky and Baboo, who have to find a way to overcome their differences in order to defeat the local crime lord, Raja, who is threatening their families. Spirited and fearless, Ticky escapes the realities of his daily life by living in a Bollywood dream-world. Baboo, on the other hand, is timid, academic and apprehensive. “It is a universal story about innocence and a tribute to the love between friends,” says Naidoo. An old-fashioned, colourful comedy misadventure made for the whole family, “the story of Kings of Mulberry Street is akin to a matinee feature,” she says.

Making their acting debuts are the brilliant young talents, twelve-year-old Aaqil Hoosen (Ticky) and nine-year-old Shaan Nathoo (Baboo), who play the leads in the film. “Casting the two leads took approximately six months,” says Naidoo, who was very hands-on in the process.  “We found the Baboo character quite early in the casting process, although we only cast the role a couple of months later.” Casting Ticky proved to be more of a challenge, sending Naidoo and her team to public schools across KwaZulu-Natal, where they eventually found the perfect fit after a lengthy process and many call backs. Interestingly, he (Hoosen) happens to be from Naidoo’s hometown of Verulam.

Rounding out the cast are Thiru Naidoo, Rizelle Januk, Amith Sing, Neville Pillay, Keshan Chetty, Hamish Kyd, Kogie Naidoo, Kimberly Arthur and Chris Forrest.

Shot on location (Verulam, Tongaat and surrounding areas) in KwaZulu-Natal in just 29 days in June 2018, Naidoo says that as with most films, budget and time were the biggest challenges encountered when producing Kings of Mulberry Street, especially when you factor child leads into the equation. The lead child actors underwent an intense six-week acting and dance rehearsal period to prepare for the film’s dance scenes. “There are strict time constraints when working with children, and it makes scheduling particularly challenging,” comments Naidoo.

Drawing inspiration from the vibrant and interesting lives led by the Indian community residing in KwaZulu-Natal in the 80s, as well as Bollywood cinema and songs of the same era, Kings of Mulberry Street is visually dynamic and rich in colour – “in a retro way,” says Naidoo.

“Between DOP Greg Heimann and myself we had decided on a certain look for the film, but we were very open to things developing organically from there, which they did. We had very specific references in mind, which we referred to from time to time, but we were flexible and adapted to what was required on location.”

Shot on the Red Dragon, Naidoo describes the shooting style as “largely free and loose” to allow the actors some degree of freedom, especially the child actors. “At times it was very challenging as the spaces we worked in were tiny and to fit the actors, the crew and the equipment in one room was a bit of a mission to say the least. We also shot on rooftops a lot, so safety was a big concern for us,” adds Naidoo.

Kings of Mulberry Street was edited by Quinn Lubbe (5:25 Productions), while sound design and final mix was undertaken by Janno Muller (On-Key Sound), with C.A. van Aswegen (FiX Post Production) handling online and grade.

As a multi-award-winning filmmaker, Naidoo is no stranger to the local and international festival circuit. Her debut feature, Hatchet Hour (2016), scooped numerous awards, including Best Director and Best Picture at the New Hope Film Festival in Pennsylvania, as well as the Best Foreign Film Award at the LA Femme International Film Festival. Her plans for Kings of Mulberry Street are no different, with the intention being to have the film travel to festivals worldwide.

Kings of Mulberry Street is a film that ultimately inspires children to be themselves, to believe in themselves, and to understand “that we are not limited by our circumstances,” says Naidoo. “It is a universal story about innocence. It is a tribute to the love between friends. While the antics of Baboo and Ticky will impress and amaze the children watching it, it will profoundly reconnect the adult viewer, via nostalgia revisited, to how cinema informs childhood. Like the movies that took our breath away as kids, Kings will sweep us off out feet and make us all feel young again with its cracking Durban-Indian wit meets hilarious Bollywood mimicry and some of the oddest dance moves in cinema history,” she concludes.

The film has enjoyed a successful theatrical release in South African cinemas beginning 28 June. Kings of Mulberry Street is distributed in South Africa by Indigenous film Distribution.

Key Crew

Director: Judy Naidoo

Producer: Judy Naidoo

Co-Producer: Bianca Isaac

Line Producer: Alan Shearer

Director of Photography: Greg Heimann, SASC

Production Designer: Edward Liebenberg

Editor: Quinn Lubbe

Sound Designer: Janno Muller

Music Composer: Brendan Jury

1st Assistant Director: Francois Coetzee

DFM2019: ‘The Working Writer’ masterclass with Sean Drummond

At the 10th Durban FilmMart (DFM), running concurrently with the 40th Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) at the Tsogo Sun Elangeni Hotel in Durban, writer and producer Sean Drummond helmed a masterclass titled ‘The Working Writer’.

Drummond, who wrote and produced the award-winning feature film Five Fingers for Marseilles – which premiered at Toronto International Film Festival – is the co-founder of production company Be Phat Motel and the founding manager of the Cape Town leg of the well-respected shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival. An early lover of the written word, Drummond graduated from the University of Cape Town with Honours in Screenwriting. Additionally, he is a 2011 Talents Durban alumnus – a 5-day intensive development programme for emerging African filmmakers that runs during DIFF in collaboration with Berlinale Talents – making him a fitting host for this masterclass.

During the masterclass, Drummond discussed his 15-year journey as a screenwriter, encompassing many challenges, failures, wins and most importantly what he’s learned through it all. Drummond says that for him, in order to succeed in the industry, relationships are key as “filmmaking is the most collaborative art form – no film is made by just one person”. He continues: “It’s all relationships…because it’s about who you want to work with, who you want to go on a journey with, who do you know that’s going to open that first door, who do you know that’s going to keep opening those doors but most importantly, who do you want to work with for potentially 10 years on a project… If you don’t like each other, you have to at least respect each other.”

Drummond also shared some key insights on screenwriting through his personal process:

  1. Research: Think and learn about the world of your story as much as you can. Travel if you can, talk to people who know more than you do.
  2. Fill your story bank with all that you’ve learned during your research phase.
  3. Outline your script as much as possible: Outline the perspectives of all your characters. Outline character arcs – including each character’s hopes, dreams, desires and wants.
  4. Think on a logline. This will help you to talk about/pitch your film to people. It also acts as a beacon to come back to when you lose your way while writing.
  5. At this point, send what you have written to people you trust.
  6. Think seriously on their feedback and how to incorporate it if you agree.
  7. Write your first draft.
  8. Rewrite until you are happy: Be prepared to cut. Ask yourself “how can I make this better”.

DFM 2019 is currently running until 22 July, while DIFF will run until 28 July.

 

 

 

DFM2019: KZNFC talks micro-budget filmmaking – challenges and solutions

On day-one of the 10th Durban FilmMart (DFM) – currently running until 22 July at the Tsogo Sun Elangeni Hotel in Durban, South Africa – the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission (KZNFC) presented a session on micro-budget filmmaking in KwaZulu-Natal and the challenges that local filmmakers face when making these films.

The major outcome of the session was the announcement of the KZNFC’s ‘Made for TV’ or micro-budget film programme. The initiative was launched after the commission conducted research on micro-budget filmmaking in the KwaZulu-Natal province.

The KZNFC’s research found that the made-for-TV/micro-budget film industry in KwaZulu-Natal faces the following challenges:

  • Poor story quality
  • Lack of reliable skills
  • Development and production delivery turnaround times
  • Lack of administrative capacity
  • Slow improvement in quality
  • Informal production process
  • Unreliable distribution methods
  • Flooding by Tier 5 practitioners

These findings led to the birth of the Made for TV initiative which is the brainchild of the KZNFC’s Film Fund. The objective of the Film Fund is to stimulate the growth of the film industry in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, solely targeting KwaZulu-Natal-based companies and companies producing films in the province. The Film Fund provides, Development Funding, Production Funding, Marketing and Distribution Funding, and Markets and Festival Funding.

KZNFC Production Development manager, Simphiwe Ngcobo said that the Made for TV programme is a “quality boost” initiative – on behalf of the KZNFC and its Film Fund – specifically targeting micro-budget films. With this in mind, the KZNFC has reserved an impressive 40% of its funding budget this year for made for TV/micro-budget films.

Scope of the Made for TV programme:

  • The initiative aims to empower KwaZulu-Natal-based filmmakers to create TV films of competitive quality.
  • The programme will address the issue of low-quality films produced through financial, structural, mentorship and resource support.
  • The programme will encompass a specific call for Made for TV film proposals.
  • Over a period of 12 months, successful applicants will refine their proposals, develop scripts, and produce and deliver TV films of 60min in length. This process will be guided by industry professionals, practitioners and the KZNFC’s production and development team.

Ngcobo said that all this couldn’t be done without the programme’s vital industry partners, namely the SABC, KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), the National Film & Video Foundation (NFVF), and the Durban Film Office (DFO).

For more information visit the KZNFC website.

The DFM is the industry arm of the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), currently taking place at various venues in and around Durban until 28 July.

Director Speak: Rehad Desai

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

This month we spoke to award-winning director and producer Rehad Desai…

Tell us a bit about your background and how it has shaped you as a filmmaker…

I grew up in the UK with lots of good-quality TV. My father loved cinema; he was at one time a circuit manager for Avalon Group. As a kid, I was fortunate enough to go to Saturday morning pictures and then, in my early teens, to be at the cinema almost weekly. By the late-1970s, we saw the new wave revolution in cinema come to the fore. The form and content was fresh, urgent and often radical. Films like Bertolucci’s 1900 blew me away, while weekly documentary programmes like World in Action and Panorama helped shape my value system, while showing me how powerful TV and film could be.

You’ve worn many professional hats in your life, including current affairs journalist – what informed your decision to become a filmmaker?

The few years I spent in the late-1990s producing and directing TV inserts for current affairs programming provided invaluable experience, allowing me to rack up the TV hours on my CV. This gave me the confidence to tackle short TV docs, mainly for Special Assignment. I then decided to bite the bullet and try my hand, first at a TV hour, and then expand into feature-length documentaries over time. It was a hard transition both professionally and financially, but I was ambitious and deeply interested in the endless possibility and freedom that documentary film provided. Watching Raoul Peck and Werner Herzog’s body of work was instrumental in this decision. I have stayed the course because I remain more convinced than ever about the immense power of emotional truth.

You are well-known for directing and producing hard-hitting socio-political documentaries. Why do you choose to produce projects of this nature?

I have largely chosen to produce and direct stories that I personally find riveting because they prompt compelling questions and can make significant social impact. Uhuru Productions has found a niche in this sort of work, but the company has made lots of different types of work over the years, including award-winning local drama and quality advocacy docs. Uhuru continues to make TV docs on an array of subjects. This has kept me open to both directing and producing a diverse array of work, including fiction and even film ideas that are not generated internally.

Producing films like Miners Shot Down and Everything Must Fall requires you to gain access to those at the centre of these struggles. How do you go about this?

You have to build trust with people and often this takes time, as people need to feel comfortable with who you are. So finding characters is a two-way thing, and you need the right chemistry. Sometimes people cannot get over their own mistrust of you, and vice-versa, so moving in is what is required. Patience and persistence are two qualities that all documentarians must have.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a documentary filmmaker?

I have had a number of challenges. Surviving financially was and, at times, continues to be a challenge, as someone who works primarily as a green fields documentary film producer. But material obstacles can always be overcome if you are diligent. The biggest challenge is spiritual, in the sense that you have to continually believe that you have something worthwhile to say to the world about the world.

What has been the highlight of your career as a filmmaker thus far?

The privilege of making the film about the Marikana massacre in 2012, perhaps the most important event in our post-apartheid history.  The Miners Shot Down experience was humbling and also tremendously energising, showing me the raw power of storytelling and vividly illustrating how film can play a significant part in creating social change. The film garnered 28 local and international awards, perhaps one of the most celebrated South African films to date.

With Everything Must Fall currently screening on Showmax – in your opinion, what value do streaming services hold for African filmmakers?

Streaming is the future of TV and at presents provide another platform where the film can be seen at the viewer’s leisure. The revenues for streaming and VOD are still small but they are rising as the number of services are multiplying and creating more international exposure for films from Africa.

Can you tell us what you’re currently working on?

The title of the film is How to Steal a Country. It’s a documentary film that primarily tells the story of the Guptas and, by doing so, of the emergence of the shadow elites and the shadow state that is haunting large parts of the world. The film is set for release at the beginning of 2020.

How do you hope to be remembered in the industry?

An approachable and humble person who makes riveting films that inform, entertain and inspire, and which leave us feeling a little more intelligent about the how, who and why of the world.

Talents Durban announces 2019 participants

The 40th Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) and Durban FilmMart (DFM) recently announced the participants of the 12th edition of Talents Durban, within the official DIFF/DFM programme.

Talents Durban is a five-day development programme presented in cooperation with Berlinale Talents, an initiative of the Berlin International Film Festival, made up of workshops and seminars for African filmmakers, delivered by film industry professionals and academics.

After a rigorous selection process, 15 filmmakers and 3 film critics from 12 countries across the continent made the final cut, which consists of 3 features, 3 TV/web series, 3 animation, 3 documentaries, 3 shorts films, and 3 film critics:

In addition to these 18 Talents, a 2018 alumnus Talents award-winner, Aliki Saragas-Georgio will pitch her project When Shadows Move along with 20 other projects at the Durban FilmMart Finance Forum. Aliki is co-producer with Jacqui-lee Katz and Bridget Pickering and co-director with Jacqui-lee Katz.

Official 2019 Talents Durban Participants & Projects

Feature Selection:

Spirit (South Africa) Director: Vusiafrica Sindane

Black Widow (Rwanda) Director: Shema Deve

No Country For Little Girls’ Tantrums (Uganda) Director: Patience Nitumwesiga

 

Shorts Selection:

Heart Attack (South Africa) Screenwriter: Minenhle Luthuli

Strong Girls (Tunisia) Director: Inès Arsi

Organized Crime (Zimbabwe) Director: Derby Bheta

 

Documentary Selection:

And Who Will Cook? (Cape Verde) Director: Samira Pinto

The Sweet Cursed Dance (Rwanda) Director: Sibomana Alexandre

Twelve Pangas (South Africa) Director: Xola Mteto

 

Animation Selection:

The Mystery of Waza (Cameroon) Animation Director: Claye Edou

Box Cutters (South Africa) Animation Director: Naomi van Niekerk

The Course (Le Parcours) (Benin) Animation Director: Odilon Assou

 

TV & Web Series Selection:

Outfoxed (South Africa) Screenwriter: Jabulile Nadia Newman

Mau Mau (Kenya) Screenwriter: Damaris Irungu

Mami Wata (Gabon) Screenwriter: Samantha Biffot

 

Talent Press Selection:

Nkululeko Zilibokwe (South Africa) Talent Press

Jeoffrey Mukubi (Namibia) Talent Press

Kayode Faniyi (Nigeria) Talent Press

 

“The 12th edition is presented under the theme of “A Journey to Authenticity” inspired by the present moment in African cinema,” explains Menzi Mhlongo, Talents Durban co-ordinator. “Following a global renaissance of African cinema and television content, the demand for stories from the continent is rising. African storytellers and audiences seeking to connect with African cinema also have to grapple with the question of what is ‘authentic’ African cinema. For the filmmaker this question has a far more inward dimension as well – before the auteur can offer the answer to this question they have to ask the question of themselves – what is authentic to me? With a four day programme of masterclasses, mentorship and networking on offer, we are looking for the best voices in African cinema- storytellers who represent the future of what it means to have an ‘Authentic Voice’ – to join this pertinent conversation.”

Participants will interact with over 600 delegates from the DIFF and Durban FilmMart, the co-production and finance forum, which takes place from 19-22 July during the festival. The Talents will also get to be part of several project-oriented, hands-on skills development programmes. Practical development programmes within Talents Durban include Story Junction, masterclasses, and one-on-one mentorships.

Story Junction is a platform showcasing projects linked to the festival. Talents will present their project at Story Junction to peers and industry delegates. Delegates will be able to request meetings with participants whose projects they wish to engage with further.

Each of the Talents will receive a mentor for an intensive programme of one-on-one consultation, and the entire group will engage in project and strategy development workshops. The mentors selected are experts in their respective fields (e.g. documentary, fiction, drama series, web, mobile content, TV and animation) that suit the needs of the participants and their projects.

In collaboration with the Durban FilmMart, Talents will have access to the inaugural Durban Does Docs conference, the Locations Africa Exhibition, a programme on women-led film hosted by Sisters Working in Film and Television (SWIFT), and a selection of masterclasses, seminars, workshops, labs and networking opportunities for filmmakers.

Talents Durban is one of 7 Talents International Programmes formed by Berlinale Talents in Africa and around the world including Talents Beirut in Lebanon, Talents Buenos Aires in Argentina, Talents Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Talents Tokyo in Japan, Talents Guadalajara in Mexico and Talent Press Rio.

Talents Durban is supported by the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, Goethe-Institut SA, German Embassy in South Africa, National Film and Video Foundation and Gauteng Film Commission.

The 40th Durban International Film Festival is organised by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, with support from eThekwini Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, the National Film and Video Foundation, German Embassy, Goethe-Institut and a range of other valued partners.

Skemerson: Destigmatising mental illness

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

On average, 14 to 18 men die of suicide every day in SA – this is the headline of a City Press article, published in November 2018.

“We’re alarmed by the increasing number of men who take their own lives in South Africa and around the world,” said founder of the Men’s Foundation, Garron Gsell, in the same article, which goes on to state that the number of South African men dying by suicide every day is three times more than the number of women – while, globally, three out of four suicides are men.

It’s not that women are not struggling with depression and mental illness. The difference is that women are more likely to talk about their problems and ask for help, while men very rarely seek help.

Palama Productions producer, Niel van Deventer, is hoping that Skemerson – a new feature-length film, written by Pietie Beyers, and co-produced by van Deventer and Beyers – will change this narrative, or, at the least, spark much-needed conversation on the subject.

Based loosely on Beyers’s struggle with his own mental health, the film follows a young man who decides to take his own life. He stands on the Bloukrans Bridge, about to meet his fate, when he hears a laugh. This is the beginning of a weekend that changes three lives forever, when a woman, her frail mother and the young man meet serendipitously.

“It is about a weekend in the lives of three people. A young man battling mental illness contemplating ending it all, an older woman, dying of cancer, and her daughter, with whom she is ticking off a lot of bucket list items,” says van Deventer. “They meet by chance, but the wisdom bestowed upon him by this wise old women ultimately makes him change his mind and helps him to make the decision to seek help with his problems. It is a story of facing your fears, accepting your fate and coming to the realisation that there is help if you just seek it.”

Having previously produced the critically-acclaimed 2015 film, Dis Ek, Anna – which deals with child sexual abuse – van Deventer has since chosen to attach himself to films that highlight under-represented social ills. “I think we have a platform and a voice and we should use it wisely,” he comments. “The impact that Dis Ek, Anna had made me decide that I will forever try and be involved in projects that can make a difference, even if it is just in the life of one person who sees what we have done and decides to seek help or comfort.”

Pietie Beyers stars as the troubled young man, Anneke Weidemann plays the young women he meets, with Elize Cawood as her ailing mother. Van Deventer explains that there was no official casting call held, all three talents were selected by the team beforehand: “We knew what we wanted and what all of these people can bring to the project, so we approached them with our script and were very thankful when they agreed to join us.”

“Because it has been a dream of Pietie’s to make this film,” van Deventer continues, “he was attached to star in the lead from the outset. Supporting him is the timeless and brilliant Elize Cawood and Anneke Weideman, who we last saw in Katinka Heyns’ Die Wonderwerker and who has actually given up acting and pursued her dream of becoming a doctor. We were very fortunate that she decided to come out of retirement and grace our project with her presence.”

Principal photography took place over just three weeks in October last year. Shot by DOP William Collinson, on location in the Eastern Cape, Skemerson marks Philip Rademeyer’s feature film directorial debut. “I approached William Collinson – a very talented, young DOP – to collaborate and I am so glad that I did so. He used the beauty of the scenery to our absolute advantage creating feelings of loneliness and isolation so craftily,” comments van Deventer, who describes the film as “a visual feast”.

Collinson shot the film on the Red Dragon with Zeiss Prime lenses. “It [the Red Dragon] is extremely versatile and we were able to shoot in 6K, which helped with the vastness of the landscape we tried to capture,” says van Deventer. Editor Christiaan Scheepers oversaw the post-production process, with online done by Shaun De Ponte at Oxyg3n Media in Johannesburg, and sound design and final mix by Paul Vermaak.

An independent production, Skemerson was financed with the assistance of leading South African pharmaceuticals company, CIPLA. “They are a pharmaceutical company that really cares and they were developing a campaign to bring over a similar message and us approaching them to get involved was almost serendipitous. Their support throughout the process has been incredible and hopefully we can do some similar projects together in the future,” comments van Deventer.

“The local industry currently is in a volatile state,” he continues. “There aren’t many avenues to explore to get films funded and made, and the ones that there are, will obviously be looking to make more commercially viable films. This might be changing soon, though, with at least two SVOD platforms coming here soon and starting to commission. The true value of a culture lies in its arts. I firmly believe that the only way for us to take our films further is by doing more ‘artsy’, hard-hitting productions, with moving scripts that are done on a world-class level and packaged and sent to festivals all over the world.”

Van Deventer says that the message of the film is that it’s okay not to be okay. “Every single person that I know has at one point or another in his or her life been affected by mental illness. If we can get the message across that you are not weak when you seek help, that will be something that resonates with everyone,” he concludes.

Key crew

Director: Philip Rademeyer

Producers:  Niel van Deventer, Pietie Beyers

Executive Producers: Niel van Deventer, Pietie Beyers, Wouter Lombard, Charlenè Brouwer

DOP: William Collinson (SASC)

Line-Producer: Mischa Bornman

Associate Producer: Gawie Myburgh

Editor: Christiaan Scheepers

Online Editor: Shaun De Ponte

Sound Design and Final Mix: Paul Vermaak

Production Design: Christian Joubert

South African Independent Film Festival returns for a second year

The 2019 South African Independent Film Festival (SAIFF), kicked off on 18 May in Johannesburg and is set to go for 26 May in Cape Town. The festival organisers promised to deliver a bigger and better festival line-up for its second edition and they have delivered.

“We have expanded for our 2019 season to feature more award categories, a bigger jury and more fantastic independent cinema. This year, the festival is going on the road, featuring events in both our home city of Cape Town as well as Johannesburg,” comments festival director Ryan Kruger.

The festival partnered up with The Bioscope in Johannesburg to showcase its top official selection films for two screening events on Saturday, 18 May. “As Johannesburg’s premiere independent cinema, The Bioscope is a no-brainer as the new home of SA Indie Film Fest in Gauteng. Following the screening on 18 May, we hosted a networking after-party in Braamfontein for filmmakers and audiences alike,” adds Kruger.

The Cape Town leg of the SAIFF will once again take place at the historic Labia Theatre and will feature an opening ceremony on Saturday, 25 May, two screening events on Sunday, 26 May, as well as a networking after-party event in Gardens.

The South African Independent Film Festival showcases the very best in local and international short form independent cinema. The festival features all genres and a wide array of formats from short films, to documentaries as well as music videos and VR. “We aim to enthrall audiences with films that stand apart from the usual festival affair and sit on the cutting-edge of storytelling in cinema,” says Kruger.

“The term ‘indie’ has come to encompass an entirely different spirit and approach to creativity. Indie filmmakers are at the forefront of innovation and creativity within the film industry,” he continues. “They take technical and creative risks that would otherwise be impossible in the high-stakes worlds of commercials and studio features. That same spirit of independence and a do-it-yourself attitude is what brought SAIFF into reality. SAIFF is a festival that celebrates this outsider approach to filmmaking and shows audiences a different side to cinema compared to what they’re usually accustomed to.”

The 2019 festival jury includes actor Hakeem Kae-Kazim (Black Sails, Pirates of the Caribbean III), Kim Engelbrecht (The Flash, Dominion), Enhle-Mbali Maphumulo (Tshisa, Rockville) and Sibs Shongwe-La Mer (Necktie Youth). As experts in their respective fields, the jury will select the award winners from this year’s official selection. “We’ve also partnered with SA HorrorFest in adding a new award category for Best Horror Film – the winner of which will be featured in this year’s upcoming SA HorrorFest,” adds Kruger.

Audiences can expect an expertly curated selection of short films, documentaries, music videos and VR experiences from around the world. Each film playing at the festival has been specially selected from hundreds of submissions by the festival’s selection committee. “We pride ourselves on our esteemed jury, who make their official selection from hundreds of submissions,” Kruger comments. “Only about 10% of submitted films make it to the official selection and even fewer get nominations or awards. This ensures that we showcase only the cream of the indie crop – which is great for audiences but even better for the hard-working filmmakers who get their work recognised. Although SAIFF is not as big or prestigious as some of the larger more established festivals, we have a very high standard of work among the indie realm and we hope this translates to greater recognition for these brilliant filmmakers.”

Additionally, the SAIFF has a new festival director, performance artist Berneen Cereska, who will be working alongside Ryan Kruger at the helm of the festival. Cereska’s passion for both music and acting have grown alongside each other in a career spanning over 10 years. She has appeared as both lead and supporting actor in a number of Lithuanian drama and reality TV shows. She is also the founder of Not A Robot Entertainment, a production company focusing on music videos and developing independent feature films. Kruger is a Cape Town-based director who has been making movies since he was 14 years old. As a winner of SAMA, MTV and GOEMA awards, he is widely celebrated for his outstanding work as a music video director. Having directed dozens of internationally-acclaimed short films, Kruger is known for his distinct visual style and character-driven stories. He has recently completed his first independent feature film, Fried Barry, which is slated for release later in 2019.

“Together, Ryan and Berneen bring an eclectic energy to the leadership of SAIFF and their creative brand can be sensed in everything the festival stands for,” says festival manager James Williamson.

“Everyone involved in the festival, from the organisers to the jury, have a heartfelt love for indie film. As independent filmmakers ourselves, we understand the disappointments and thrills that come with the territory. This festival aims to celebrate all the highs, lows, hard work and creativity of indie filmmaking!” Kruger concludes.

Director Speak: Daniel Snaddon

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

Screen Africa chatted to Daniel Snaddon, founding director of the Cape Town International Animation Festival and director of Zog, Triggerfish’s latest BBC Christmas special with Magic Light Pictures…

WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND AND HOW HAS THIS SHAPED YOU AS A DIRECTOR? 

Growing up in the transition era has made me an optimist and a believer in people. As a director, I like to be collaborative and to challenge my teams to come up with creative solutions on both the art and technical sides of our films. So far, they’ve only fuelled my belief!

WHY ANIMATION? WAS IT ALWAYS THE PLAN? 

In his book Starting Point, Hayao Miyazaki describes all animators as being nostalgic for a world that doesn’t exist, which really resonates with me. Plan-wise: I’ve always drawn, made little comics, films and video games, and when I was looking at what to study, I became really jealous of my friend when he told me he was going to do animation… so I followed the envy.

APART FROM ANIMATION, WHAT KIND OF CONTENT DO YOU ENJOY CREATING? 

My wife, Julia, and I are working on a kid’s book together. It’s about a young boy trying to figure out how to be a ‘manly-man.’

YOU RECENTLY DIRECTED ZOG – BASED ON THE BESTSELLING JULIA DONALDSON AND AXEL SCHEFFLER PICTURE BOOK – WHAT WAS THAT PROCESS LIKE? WHAT DREW YOU TO THIS STORY? 

Directing Zog was great fun, and surprisingly straightforward for Max (Lang) and myself. We are both story-board artists and managed to get a first pass of the film out in a couple of weeks, and then just built on that with the team, iteration by iteration.

At the heart of the book, there is a lovely and surprising relationship between the dragon and the girl, which I found charming. It also has a great message about being true to yourself in the face of the expectations of others, which I think is a great take-away for kids and adults alike.

WHAT ELEMENTS ARE CRUCIAL IN DEVELOPING A SUCCESSFUL ANIMATED FILM/SERIES FOR YOUNGER VIEWERS?

Young audiences can be quite brutal, and can smell condescension or someone who thinks they’re funny a mile away. To get something to connect, you need to be just as brutal with your film, and if the story is unclear, a joke isn’t getting a laugh or an emotional moment isn’t landing, you need to fix it.

HOW HAS THE LANDSCAPE CHANGED IN THE AFRICAN ANIMATION INDUSTRY OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS?

Africa is currently being looked to as a source of inspiration. It’s still hard to do things in Africa, but we finally have the ear of the big studios and networks – and they want to see what our animation studios can do.

WHY DO YOU THINK AFRICAN ANIMATION IS CURRENTLY BOOMING AND TRAVELLING LIKE IT IS? WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THIS SUCCESS TO?

The current interest in African animation has been fuelled by a thirst for unique stories and voices. Whether this turns into a genuine boom or not will depend on us and whether we can create characters and stories that connect with world audiences.

AS THE FOUNDING DIRECTOR OF THE CTIAF, HOW DID YOU FIND THIS YEAR’S EVENT?

I was completely blown away! The quality of the talks, the meetings and conversations was world-class. Di and her team did an amazing job.

WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF EVENTS LIKE THE CTIAF TO THE AFRICAN ANIMATION INDUSTRY?

It connects us to the world and to each other and that, alone, makes it super important. We’re a collaborative medium; we can’t really thrive in isolation.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CAREER THUS FAR? 

Watching Zog with my nine-month-old, my wife and our parents at the UK premiere was pretty special.

ANY ADVICE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE WANTING TO PURSUE A CAREER IN ANIMATION?

Young people! Listen to me!!! Figure out what you WANT, and then figure out how to get it! Otherwise other people will tell you what they want from you, and you’ll spend your life giving it to them (because they have all the money).

WHAT NEXT FOR DANIEL SNADDON AS A DIRECTOR?

I’m currently directing another Christmas special for Magic Light Pictures and the BBC, based on Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s book, The Snail and the Whale. I’m also developing the feature film Kariba with Triggerfish, based on the graphic novel by Daniel and James Clarke.

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